This paper addresses the numerical simulation of quasi-static ductile fracture. The main focus is on numerical and stability aspects related to discrete crack propagation. Crack initiation and propagation are taken into account, both driven by the evolution of a discretely coupled damage variable. Discrete ductile failure is embedded in a geometrically nonlinear hyperelasto-plastic model, triggered by an appropriate criterion that has been evaluated for tensile and shear failure. A crack direction criterion is proposed, which is validated for both failure cases and which is capable of capturing the experimentally observed abrupt tensile–shear transition. In a large strain finite element context, remeshing enables to trace the crack geometry as well as to preserve an adequate element shape. Stability of the computations is an important issue during crack propagation that can be compromised by two factors, i.e. large stress redistributions during the crack opening and the transfer of variables between meshes. A numerical procedure is developed that renders crack propagation considerably more robust, independently of the mesh fineness and crack discretisation. A consistent transfer algorithm and a crack relaxation method are proposed and implemented for this purpose. Finally, illustrative simulations are compared with published experimental results to highlight the features mentioned.